Libraries: Eighth Wonder of the World
Writing for Vibrant Village has motivated me to consider what exactly are the ingredients that come together in a special way to create a vibrant village. And even after acknowledging a personal bias, I have decided that the heart of a vibrant village (aside from the people) is a vibrant library. In fact, I have long believed that the Eighth Wonder of the World is the library.
Libraries have been around for a long time; one of the first repositories of written records was a collection of scrolls found in Mesopotamia that dates back 5,000 years. In 300 BC, Greeks scholars were using the library at Alexandria. Libraries are so much a part of our culture in 2010 that we often forget how important they are to a community.
I believe that the miracle of libraries is that they are based on the best of human nature. Libraries exist because we believe in the human qualities of trust, unselfishness, responsibility, curiosity, intellectual freedom, service to others, access to learning for all, creativity, and sharing the delight found in exploring ideas.
Libraries are enduring, based on the idea of community, international, cross-cultural, preserve the past, future-oriented, consistent while changing, and based on order and organization while offering events that celebrate the free spirit.
I have been a library patron since I was four years old and have worked in school, academic, and public libraries since I was twelve years old. Not once has my faith in libraries been shaken even when I have had twenty-dollar library fines!
Cementing my faith in libraries
An experience that cemented my faith in libraries occurred during the first Iraq War. I was working in the inter-library loan department of a university library and involved in ordering research material for a professor of entomology. His research project on a specific insect had connected him with a professor in Iraq who was researching the same insect. It amazed me that even during a war, the library in America and the library in Iraq continued to share inter-library loan articles and resources on the small insect and the two professors had access to the information they needed.
On a daily basis, I see small miracles that the library I work in provides for individuals. The library staff helps people find addresses they need for personal or professional reasons, genealogy resources available in library help connect patrons with their past and find out more about their families, reference tools offer legal help that guides patrons making life changing decisions, fathers can find a quiet moment to read a story to their children, and the “just right” book often comforts patrons in times of grief. Librarians work hard to consider all the needs of their communities and provide services and resources to meet those needs.
Today libraries are not your mother’s library
Librarians work diligently to make available resources, technologies, and activities to meet the needs of their patrons in our complex and perplexing world.
Some of the services provided by the library in my vibrant village include: a request procedure that allows patrons to order books from a three-county library system, fax services, copying services, Internet service including Wi-Fi, outreach services for those who can’t get to the library, tax preparation services, circulation of magazines, books, CDs, audio books, video tapes, and DVDs, special reading series for adults, winter and summer reading programs for children, story hours, activities in coordination with local schools, book clubs for young adults, special programs by national story tellers, genealogy services, a program room available for community functions, a summer story festival, an art gallery for local artists to exhibit their works, newspapers, a Web site, computer renewal and requesting services, staff members who are professional and enjoy their work, and even a coffee shop.
A library is my touchstone
When I travel, the first thing I look for when I explore a new town is the library. I know after my first twenty minutes in the library whether I will enjoy this new place and will remember it as a vibrant village.
From Ullapool, a small town on the west coast of Scotland to Brooklin, Maine, I have delighted in the way the local library welcomed me. When I visit my in-laws in Yarm, England or my son and his family in Anthem, Arizona, I always visit the local libraries. I check out what is going on in town during my visit. Then I flash the library cards I have received at each library to check out a pile of books for the duration of my visit.
Yes, I do believe that libraries are miracles. Libraries are the glue that hold together the best of human nature, and they offer a multitude of services to meet the needs of individuals in a community. Libraries weave all the individual threads necessary to connect people into a fabric that makes a community – in your town and beyond. And it's all free.
Does your hometown library hold a special place in your heart? Please comment below and tell us about it.
Les grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, the child of two university professors. With a master's degree in English-Composition and Rhetoric and teaching credentials for early childhood – high school as well as media specialist, Les has taught at university and high school. Now she divides her time as a poet, writer, avid reader, librarian, and photographer. She lives in down east North Carolina with her husband, a small armada of boats in various states of disrepair, two standard poodles, and a white cat.
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